About a year ago I was in the market for an 1176 style compressor. After a lot of searching and checking out various clones (including considering to build one myself – something I would never have had time for in reality) I finally went with one built by small Polish company WesAudio. I really loved its performance, which made me recently buy a second one (a slightly upgraded version this time; review of that is coming). Radek, the man behind WesAudio, was then kind enough to also send me a unit of his latest creation to demo: a Pultec style EQ called LC-EQP.
Until very recently I’ve been a bit skeptical to the use of this style of EQ. I work primarily with metal music and most of the EQ adjustments I do tend to be surgical stuff. On the other hand, I usually have an EQ in my signal chain to make some small, wider adjustments, but the idea with Pultec style EQ just never appealed to me since I found it too limited in usability. This may be true if you compare it just with a four-band parametric, but that is a flawed comparison. I’ve come to realize that Pultec style EQ must be seen as something quite different. It’s not really until you’ve played around with one that you realize how useful it can be, and what made me change my mind was actually by using some software clones.
So it deserves to be said that I’ve never laid my hands on a real Pultec, and therefore I cannot comment about the difference between that and the LC-EQP. What I can say though, is that this one was just what I wanted and more.
The LC-EQP features the same bands as you’ll find on an EQP-1a: a shelving LF boost, a shelving LF attenuator, a bell MF/HF boost and a shelving HF attenuator. The MF/HF boost has a bandwidth control, but what sets it apart from its grandfather in functionality is that the LF shelves have their own frequency selectors rather than sharing the same control, and the available frequencies for each band has a much wider range: LF boost/attenuation ranges between 20Hz and 250Hz in six steps, HF boost remarkably ranges between 1kHz and 20kHz in 12 steps, no less, and the HF attenuation ranges from 2kHz to 20kHz in six steps.
People who are unfamiliar with the sound of a Pultec style EQ might wonder about the usability of LF boosts AND cuts on separate controls. My advice is to try it out with a software plugin and you’ll get the idea. The shape of the shelves are quite different from each other and combining them gives you a very interesting curve that can be very useful for many instruments. Try it out on a piano for example, set the frequency to 30Hz (or CPS – cycles per second – as it was referred to in the Pultec era) and notice how you’ll get rid of unwanted mud without messing with the low-end response.
Now, working with metal music means that I very rarely have the pleasure to work with piano recording. My main plan for the LC-EQP is to use it on bass guitar and vocals. I have yet to try it out on vocals, but the first thing I used it on was actually distorted guitars. I hadn’t really considered that from the start, but when I received the unit I was working with reamping some guitars for a mix and I was eager to try it out. And it actually proved to be very useful. I made some pretty small adjustments, none of the controls ever going over 12 o’clock, and it was very smooth in operation.
Next, I tried it on bass. Here is where it really shines. Setting the LF boost/cut to 30Hz (my go-to position for bass guitar) I set the boost and cut pretty high. The EQ performed just as expected, Wesaudio had me hooked by then already, but messing around a bit more with the controls made me switch the LF cut frequency, and here’s where it just made perfect sense to have separate control over the frequency selection! With LF cut at 60Hz it felt like instant gratification for the sound I was working with. Some wide HF boost around 2kHz and a little bit of HF attenuation and the sound was just there, plain and simple, no additional tweaking needed.
In summary, WesAudio have taken a great concept (I’d like to say ‘EQ philosophy’ but that sound really pretentious so let’s stick with concept) and elevated it to a new level, with tons of added possibilities with the extended frequencies. The only thing I’m missing a bit is a trim dial, which I think could be useful for a better representation of pre/post checking, but it’s just a minor thing. If you are looking for a real Pultec EQP-1a and have a wallet too fat to fit in your back pocket then you may want to look elsewhere. Personally I can’t comment on how it sounds compared with “the real thing” like I mentioned, but I can say without a doubt that the LC-EQP does its job and does it well. The build quality seems great, and from some minor issues I had with the compressor I bought from the same company, I assure you that the customer service is absolutely top notch. Radek has gotten back to me very fast every time and has been more than helpful.
Lastly, just a brief note on the looks of the unit: shying away from Pultec style pajama blue, Wesaudio have instead gone with a classy looking brushed metal black panel with white printing, same as on their compressor. This is of course a matter of preference, but personally I love it. With two of their compressors plus this EQ in the rack, to me it looks stunning. Simple, sober and classy!
I never used any other Pultec-style EQ so I cannot compare the LC-EQP to other gear of the same type.
However, the LC-EQP gives me the ability to shape the signal in a way which was simply impossible by the means of my DAW. Before my last equipment purchase (which included the LC-EQP, a Foote P3S compressor and the Vovox cables needed to connect them to my setup) I was under the impression that my skills just were not good enough to achieve the sound quality I was aiming for. By using this EQ I learned that it was not appropriate not to blame the tools. Before I used this EQ I could get the frequency curve I wanted, but I was not able to get the sound I wanted! Even one of the most respected mastering guys told me my mix was "OK" but to me the sound just was not there. To me my mixes were sounding dull and if I didn't make them sound dull they always were lacking midrange. I never had expected such an impact by just using an outboard EQ but now I clearly can hear that the sound actually is there, it has the quality I always have been dreaming of. I use the EQ on stereo tracks by recording both channels through the same setting. And I extensively tend to apply the EQ multiple times on the same signal. Each time the signal gets shaped a bit more. That way it is possible to shape out some really nice overtones. After heavy processing with carefully set up frequency curves it is possible to give the transients a kind of "in your face"-smash. Also very good on some tracks to enhance their funkiness. After extensive re-use over and over again an E-Piano I was processing actually sounded more like a funk guitar which was a rather unexpected, stunning result. As you can see I am very impressed by the sound!
Easy of use:
One knob per function interface, everything has been laid out well, nothing to discuss here
Why would one give a 5 star rating on features for a pultec style EQ? Well, it has additional frequencies over the original design
Bang for buck:
It's probably the least expensive Pultec clone if you are located in europe. Value for money is excellent. Also it can be repaired by any tech familiar with this kind of technology so it's a good investment in the long run. I bought this because I wanted the best sound for the money invested and I didn't want to invest in software plugins as they can become outdated (while this EQ design which originates from 1951 already has survived various eras of recording technology).
This piece of equipment is a workhorse and a masterpiece to me. But this closely is related to the way I work: I am a "synthesis" guy who likes to shape sounds and I am a bedroom producer who needs to check out any changes to the mix quite extensively (as the acoustic situation can not compete with a real studio).
This kind of equalizer is absolutely essential to my small setup. I cannot imagine to work without this style of EQ any more.